Friday, 8 July 2011

bob, bob, bobbing along...

After days in and around the desert, as we drove back up north along the west of the country there was a shift in the environment. The mountainous terrain remained, but it was now joined by a sharp smell of salt wafting on the breezes as the Dead Sea gradually appeared before us. Calm and still, a deep bluey-grey, it looked like thick oil stretching out ahead and across to Israel.

Aiming for the closest proximity to the water that we could manage, we had decided to go all out and treat ourselves for this part of the trip. For the last few years luxury had meant the occasional airport hotel when we were too tired or tight on time at the end of a holiday, so driving into the Movenpick, with it's complimentary fresh lemonade upon arrival and a room bigger than my entire flat, was a shock to the system. We soon got over it though as we explored the luxury bathroom, free minibar and incredible complex. Blowing all our money never tasted so sweet.

After a lovely dinner and restful sleep, we were ready to experience some of the therapeutic properties of the area the next morning. Luckily, many hotel residents seemed to rise late, or spend the morning around one of the multiple swimming pools, so the actual 'beach' and dead sea was pretty quiet. Although we'd been warned about the sensation of being in the water, nothing can really prepare you. Getting in and out is difficult enough - your body wants to do one thing, the water another, and it all results in being flipped over ungracefully again and again.

Once we'd got our balance and figured out that laying on our backs was the safest position, we started to enjoy ourselves. The water rippled thickly around us, viscose and shiny, as we lay back and bobbed around. Another quick tip - don't open your mouth when trying out water acrobatics. It's not pleasant...

After a while, we crawled our way out of the sea and got down to the business of slapping the silky dead sea mud all over us, and baking in the sun for the while. Washing it all off once more in the sea (to reveal soft, smooth new skin...well, sort of...), we floated around for a while more, drifting out to avoid the sharp, salt-encrusted rocks before eventually, and literally, dragging ourselves back in and plonking down by a pool.

Presently our feet started to get itchy to get out and do something, and we hopped into the car for the short drive to Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan, the alleged site of Jesus' baptism in the river Jordan. There is a compulsory tour, and we were led through some lovely groves to the baptism area, now dried up due to over-use of the river water and a little sad, a dry and cracked pool. We walked further to where the river still runs, and for me the most interesting part of the excursion - a border to Israel just a metre away across the narrow river.

Afterwards it was back to the Movenpick, and another lovely evening and morning before heading off once more. Although I am a big advocate of cheap and cheerful accommodation when abroad, saving money for activities and sights, I have to admit that I was impressed with the hotel. Getting what you pay for and much more, it was a relaxing mini-break, and the location, right on the shore, couldn't be beat (although our beaten up rucksacks probably revealed us to be frauds!). Anyway, back to hostels...

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